Book Review: Wildlife Wars

I just finished Wildlife Wars by Terry Grosz and I’m giving it a C+. If I’d just read a 1/4 of it and put it down, I’d give it a B+.

A summary from the author’s Web site: Wildlife Wars is Terry Grosz’s first book, featuring his rookie years as a state fish and game warden in California. During his early years on the front lines of conservation law enforcement, Grosz matched wits with elk poachers, salmon snaggers, commercial-market duck hunters and a host of other law-breakers. 

My main problems with the book are repetition and a scene in the last part of the book — Grosz and an accomplice practically kill some civilians with a bottlerocket, you’ll need to read it to get the whole gist.

The scenes of Grosz landing flying tackles on nasty poacher scum are definitely satisfying, and I’m sure that he has enough stories to make up a great body of work. But there is way too much about how physically large Grosz is. Waaaaay too much. Another area Grosz likes to dwell on, how much his first supervisor disliked educated biologists. Too bad there isn’t any biology in the book.

Two things would take this book from a C+ to an A: Biology and modern context. Beating the bad guys would be a lot more interesting if we could see the impact of poaching on wildlife, beyond the body counts. Secondly, all this happened 40 years ago — what is the reality on the ground today? Did all the flying tackles add up to any gains for wildlife? Are commercial hunters the real problem facing wildlife in California? Not likely.

The book won the 2000 National Outdoor Book Award. And aside from the shortcomings, it’s entertaining and I’m glad Grosz is on our side. I bought another one of Grosz’s books but won’t get to it any time soon. If you have a different view on this author’s later work — now that he’s had a chance to write seven books on the subject —  let me know.


About mstansberry

Matt Stansberry currently lives in Eugene, Oregon with his wife and son.
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